December 27th, 2008
02:31 PM ET
13 years ago

RNC Chair criticizes rival over controversial Obama song

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="RNC Chairman Mike Duncan criticized the parody CD Chip Saltsman sent to RNC members."](CNN) - The chairman of the Republican National Committee has become the first major GOP figure to criticize a CD distributed by one of his challengers that included lyrics from a song called "Barack the Magic Negro."

"The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party," Chairman Mike Duncan said in a statement reported by Politico Saturday afternoon. "I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction."

Chip Saltsman – who sent RNC members a parody CD for Christmas that included the controversial tune - defended his decision Friday, telling CNN the song was clearly intended as a joke.

(Update after the jump: Blackwell defends Saltsman)

"I think most people recognize political satire when they see it," Chip Saltsman told CNN. "I think RNC members understand that."

Saltsman is a former chair of the Tennessee Republican Party, was a top advisor to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign.

He is one of several candidates running to replace Duncan in the closely-contested race to lead the Republican Party.

The song, set to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon," was first played on Rush Limbaugh's radio show in 2007. Its title was drawn from a Los Angeles Times column that suggested Obama appealed to those who feel guilty about the nation's history of mistreatment of African-Americans. Saltsman said the song, penned by long-time friend Paul Shanklin, should be easily recognized as satire directed at the Times.

The parody CD sent to RNC members this Christmas, first reported by The Hill Friday, is titled "We Hate the USA", and includes songs referencing former presidential John Edwards and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, among other targets.

Also Saturday, Peter Yarrow - who co-wrote "Puff the Magic Dragon" - released a statement through representatives calling Saltsman's decision to distribute the parody tune "not only offensive, it is shocking and saddening in the extreme."

"It is almost unimaginable to me," Yarrow wrote in the statement sent to CNN, that Saltsman "would seriously be considered for the top post of the Republican National Committee. Puff, himself, if asked, would certainly agree."

Yarrow, a member of the 1960s folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, was a contributor to Obama's presidential campaign.

Update: Ken Blackwell, Ohio's former secretary of state and a fellow candidate for RNC chair, defended Saltsman Saturday.

"Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-Elect Obama being the first African-American elected president," said Blackwell, in a statement published in Politico.

"I don't think any of the concerns that have been expressed in the media about any of the other candidates for RNC chairman should disqualify them. When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people."

If he were elected, Blackwell would be the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Filed under: Chip Saltsman • RNC
soundoff (234 Responses)
  1. William Martin

    Joke, I am not laughing.

    Bill Martin

    December 27, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  2. To dragonfly777

    Nice bit of revisionist history. Anyone with half a brain knows that the vicious smear tactics during this campaign season came, as they have in every presidential election since 1988, from the Republicans.

    Thanks for showing your incredible ignorance for all the world to see.

    December 27, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  3. Pee for Poultice

    Sounds like the beginnings of a "death rattle" – believe me, there's more to come before it's all over.

    December 27, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |


    December 27, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  5. margoharris

    The rethuglicants are unable to be a civil and honest party. They are all about putting out divisive and demeaning B/S. This will not work anymore. They should keep it up and double down on the reichwingnuttery too. Thanks RNC for all that you show yourselves to be. Guess what ? Nobody is buying anymore except the "faithful". What a way to grow a party!

    December 27, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  6. Renee

    Hey, wasn't it Al Sharpton who first called Obama the "Magic Negro"?

    December 27, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  7. kaz

    I think some in repulican party dont realize that US is changing fast and soon repulicans will be loosing big time.

    December 27, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  8. Edna pa

    find it entertaining that right wingers who follow the lead of Rush “operation chaos’ Limpmind never miss an opportunity to discredit themselves. They actually think that what they need is more closed minded bunker mentality. If you believe that you will also believe that all Sarah Palin needed was more interviews to show how brilliant she really is. 8 years of of showing they can’t walk and chew at the same time and they still want to show us the way to national salvation. America works because there is always an alternative, so the least the right wing can do now is shut up and wait; they could learn a lot by just watching. They rode the good old Reagan years because of unique circumstances; those are gone and are not coming back. W was ended it.

    December 27, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  9. Michael S.

    What can be said about this? Mocking the race of our nations president-elect as a source of satire shows how low the bar has been set for decency in political discourse. Not only does it show a lack of decency, but it also shows a complete lack of intelligence.

    The RNC needs to seriously reflect on itself to decide whether they are a party for the American People or the party for the American White People. Right now they just seem to be a disgarce amongst themselves.

    December 27, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  10. ane

    the republicans are so PATHETIC!!!!

    December 27, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  11. FreeNLovIt

    Wait what? RNC is our version of the Taliban?

    December 27, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  12. Tom Dawson

    It would appear that one of the major differences between the Democrats and the Republicans – in their leadership anyhow – is that the Republicans have a rather warped sense of taste.

    December 27, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  13. gregg45

    dang.. not one word said about the right of free speach,,, why,, if i said obama was white, i would be shot,,, dang.. so go amerika,,, never mind his wHITE MAMA OR HIS WHITE GRANMA,,,, oh no,,, people do not realize the democrats,,, loved ,, slavery,, look it up...wonder what that war was fought ????????????????????? stop it , white folks from the north ,, west,,, u did not live here in the south ,, i have pics from the 1867 to the now,, from what happened,, yes i forgot,, but now ,, it is my family,, who dealt with it,,,

    December 27, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  14. Is it Jan 20th yet?

    Just another reason why the republicans will never ever get a vote from a non-white person like me

    December 27, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  15. Canadian Watching

    Absolutely. Disgusting.

    December 27, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  16. Carole

    Repubs the gig is up! They even made fun of Hispanic Americans on the one song referencing Spanglish. Some of the relatives of the Hispanic Americans were here greeting the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.

    Everyone, picture a crowd at a Repub convention, WASP snowfall. Picture a crowd at a Dem convention, DIVERSITY.

    The Gig is up REPUBS.

    December 27, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  17. Texas Teacher

    If the democrats had written and used such a song about....mmmm... say Sarah Palin. The RNC would have come after the DNC like a lynch mob on a Saturday Night... hoods and all!

    December 27, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  18. Tom in CA a bigot from Kentucky is calling a Tennessean a bigot!

    That's right! The RNC is full of BIGOTS!

    Also, know as angry-old WASPs!

    December 27, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  19. California Gold

    Only a narrow minded bigot would make excuses for this conduct, such as claiming it's satirical. Veiling offensive, racial slurs and defamatory actions as "funny" is out of bounds. Troubling to think anyone would find the title to be acceptable. Blech.

    December 27, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  20. Aaron from Ohio

    Chip made an ill considered move and now has to accept the consequences. He's not going to resign or face a recall from the voters in his state. All this really does is remove him from consideration for the post he was seeking and make his party's leadership think twice about appointing him to any committee. It may even solidify his position within his state. There are states where this sort of thing plays well. The bigger problem is that many voters nationwide will look at this as being representative of the republican party as a whole. Fairly or unfairly, many voters now look at how this seems to be a motus operandi for all republicans. With the scenes from the last election's rallies still fresh in everyone's minds such as shouts of "terrorist", "kill him" and "muslim" at Palin's rallies to McCain referring to Obama as "that one" during a presidential debate, the republican party is identified as a party that isn't inclusive and only represents a certain segent of America. They need to re-invent themselves or else put themselves in the same category as the vhs or 8-track tape.

    December 27, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  21. Robin

    Is anyone getting tired of hearing about race?

    December 27, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  22. Texas Teacher

    Republicans and some Democrats have a hard lesson to learn.... that is that the People are speaking out.... and we have begun with electing Barack Obama and Joe Biden!

    Get ready.... folks, you either jump on the wagon or get ready to be run over at the gate! The times, they are a changin'. Get used to it... ole time, good ole boy politics are on the way OUT! 🙂 Clean up your acts... or get ready to become obsolete! (is that spelled righ? oh, heck... you know what I mean! *LOL*)

    December 27, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  23. gregg45

    IM SORRY,, i made a really bad mistake,,, i really wanted to vote for the commamadte ,, i was told i was supposed to get 5 dollars,, if i did not,,, i apoligize... i am sooooo soooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyy

    December 27, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  24. Mel of Alexandria, Virginia

    The racism is not just in the party. It is in the heart of those like Saltsman who spout such hate." From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks", even before their hate-saturated minds can catch up. We have come a long way and he can no longer count on race to bale him out. God bless America, change has come. Chip Saltsman is in a decreasing minority. Let us isolate him and move on. Those who hang with idiots will go down with idiots.

    December 27, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  25. Roland

    If there is any doubt that all racists, homophobes, sexists, and religious bigots are at home in the Repugnican party, here is proof. Thank goodness they (that is Repugnicans) represent what true Christianity is all about. Merry effin Christmas.

    December 27, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
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